Obligation. Love it, or Hate it..?
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Not a nice word, is it..
When I hear it, I habitually associate it with other ideas. Ideas that don’t feel good.
Like guilt, self-judgement, or dislike.
And almost always connected to family. Right?
Growing up, I (like most people) was taught that there were certain actions and behaviours that were expected within families.
We (my siblings and I) were expected to love and respect each other. I‘m kind of okay with this.
We were expected to participate when parents decided we should (irrespective of whether we wanted to or not). I resented and resisted this one. A lot.
We were expected to speak when spoken to. Another one I resisted and resented.
And, my favourite, after we flew the nest we were expected to visit at regular intervals. And no matter how often we did, it was never frequently enough. Another ugh here..
And such was the creation of what I came to know as OBLIGATION.
Now, I’m not about to have a rant about my parents. Nope, they were simply doing what they their parents taught them. I get that.
In fact, this experience offered me the opportunity to shift my perspective of obligation.
To see it from a different, more enlightened point of view.
In short, I learned that obligation is rooted in the concept/belief that we need to change our behaviour (and deny our own truth) in order to soothe others. To make them “feel better”. [It’s a belief I let go of a long time ago.]
If my parents believed that my visit would make them happy, well then that was their issue to sort out. And I grew to respect that, instead of feeling guilty about it.
Them attaching their happiness to my actions was their choice. And I was under no obligation to act accordingly. Unless I believed that I was (which I didn’t).
So why am I telling you this?
Well, I was reminded of this just recently.
Except this time, the shoe was on the other foot.
My own daughter has been quite distant of late. And when I pressed her for more information (as mom’s do), she offered very little. Except that in the midst of all the world-drama currently underway, she simply needed some space.
Which I get. No biggie.
Yet, in that moment, I felt the urge to yell but what about my needs..? (Yikes!)
Yup, there I was, about to spew forth my own little expectation. That she was obligated to communicate with me according to what my definition of acceptable mother-daughter dialogue is.
The underlying belief was that if she did this, then I’d feel better.
I know.. I hang my head in shame..
Luckily, I didn’t.
I caught myself. Just in time.
And wow! What an expansive moment it was.
Right now, she gets to be who she is.
I accept her as that.
Her choices are her own and represent her truth. They have absolutely nothing to do with me.
End of story.
Likewise, I decide my value as a mom. It’s not attached to her choices. Ever.